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Nick Clegg: this weekend is one our country should never forget

March 29, 2014 4:10 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

In the first few moments after the House of Lords voted in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry, finally passing the legislation into law, I joined the celebration outside Parliament. Crowds had gathered, the choir was singing and the mood was jubilant. You could see in people's faces and hear in their voices just how important that moment was, and today, we'll see it again.

I said then that my big hope was that people would look back at this change and wonder what all the fuss was about. It should be entirely unremarkable and completely uncontroversial that two people, whoever they are, want to express and celebrate their love for each other.

Getting to this point has not been easy. There has been a lot of anger. There have been vicious words and, in some cases, prejudice has been exposed.

So today when Britain celebrates, let's ensure that prejudices of the past are well and truly beaten.

And, if you're one of the first same-sex couples getting married this weekend, and you've got a spare seat, you might want to invite the likes of Norman Tebbit or Nigel Farage.

Then each can see, for themselves, just how much this hard-won right - to celebrate your love for each other - means to you, your families and our country.

Every time a new same-sex couple marries, any outdated views that linger will be pushed further and further out of view.

For everyone who campaigned so hard for equal marriage, it's about love, but also building a modern, open and fair society. That's the Britain we believe in - a country that is stronger through its diversity and a place where everyone is valued equally with the same right to love and commit to who they want.

In many ways, as Matthew Parris argued in this paper last week, it's the public who led the way for this change - with politicians, of all parties, trailing in their wake.

Now it is law. As a country, we should never underestimate just what that means.

Hopefully, from this weekend, when a teenage boy or girl nervously prepares to tell their mum or dad they're gay, it will be a little easier.

When they plan their life, they'll know that getting married can be part of the picture.

If they experience homophobic bullying at school, work or online, they'll know they're not alone. They can be sure that we will continue to do all we can to end that kind of prejudice and discrimination in modern Britain.

Fundamentally, they will no longer have to grow up feeling like our society - through its laws - sees them or the people they love as somehow inferior or less worthy of our respect

A friend of mine who's gay told me that, walking past Moss Bros the other day, he saw a window display of two grooms. He's not in a relationship, with no current plans to get married. But he said that, as he passed that shop window, he literally felt himself walk a bit taller.

That should make all of us walk a little taller, whether it's down the aisle or not, this weekend.

This positive step also sends a powerful message to those people around the world still fighting for greater equality. It tells them they are not alone and that we will always stand with them.

It should never be a crime to be gay. Love, tolerance and respect are universal values and human rights, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender freedoms, should apply to all people.

That is why the Coalition Government will continue to promote these rights abroad and confront those authorities in countries such as Uganda and Russia who seek to deny them.

Laws, and attitudes like these, are a backward step in the fight for global human rights and have no place in our world today.

Here at home, we're also still working to ensure all of those couples, who might want to, can convert their civil partnerships into marriages.

Of course not every couple has to get married to show their commitment to each other, but now finally everyone has a choice. That's definitely something to celebrate.

So, this weekend, let's raise a toast to the same sex couples getting married and wish them all the very best of luck for the future. This is a day they will always remember. It's one our country should never forget.